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almost as if we ourselves were without the law : obliged to hear so often in silence the expression of those low unchristian principles which alone are on a level with the minds of worldly men; we should ourselves in time be tainted by the common infection, if we had no friend with whom we could converse as Christians, to whom we might speak without restraint our own natural language, and from whom we could receive an answer in a kindred spirit. Therefore, it is the interest, and if it be the interest in spiritual matters, it is the duty, of every Christian, to endeavour to secure the blessing of a Christian friend. And one way to gain this is to have no intimate friendships with such as are not Christians ; Christians, I mean, in earnest and with all their hearts; for many a man who calls himself and is called by this name, is in reality an unbeliever; his faith goes no deeper than his lips. If we are known to be intimately associating with persons such as these, we shall be naturally suspected of resembling them : and good men will not come forward to seek the friendship of those who are the friends of the careless and unprincipled. Finally, there are many persons whose nearest friends are already marked out for them. When men are become husbands and fathers,
and still more when they are advanced in years, their nearest friendships must exist within their own households ; they cannot go abroad to seek for them, if they have not been secured already. How miserable, then, must be our life, if even in the midst of our nearest and dearest relations, we can enjoy no Christian communion : if even within our own house, we must serve our God alone. This is the curse of unchristian marriages, of being unequally yoked with unbelievers, and of neglecting the Christian education of our children. If such be our condition, how earnestly should we labour to hallow our earthly ties, by improving them into bonds of spiritual affection: to bring home those that are nearest and dearest to us to the knowledge of their Saviour, that as we are united to them in worldly concerns, we may not be strangers in the things which concern our everlasting peace.
2 CORINTHIANS iv. 13.
We having the same spirit of faith, (according as it is
written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken ;) we
also believe, and therefore speak. In these words is contained a short and simple account of the feelings which urged the Apostles to go about from one country to another, spreading the knowledge of Christ. We believe, says St. Paul, and therefore we speak. We are men who have heard tidings wonderful and most interesting to us, and to all mankind; we know too that they are not more wonderful than true; and, therefore, our hearts are hot within us, till we have repeated them to others, that they also may rejoice as we do. The secret or the mystery of God's mercy through Christ is too great to be confined within our own bosoms: we should in vain strive to hide it, it would force its way to our lips, because it is always in our hearts; and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Our words, therefore, are not forced, nor do we set ourselves to speak to Christ as a task or a business; it is the most natural subject on which our tongues can be employed : we believe, and we cannot help speaking of it. Such speaking, as was natural, did not fail to find many listeners. The people amongst whom the Apostles came, saw plainly that they were in earnest about the matter ; that the tidings which they brought had really got possession of their minds, and that they only wished to make known to others what had been and was every hour, so great a source of comfort to themselves. This impression of sincerity was all that was wanted; for the Apostles had themselves eaten and drunken with our Lord after that he was raised from the dead, and therefore did not speak upon guess or uncertainty. They knew in whom they had believed, and thus their belief was as sure as it was earnest, and they might well speak according to it.
In a higher strain, yet somewhat to the same purpose, are the words of Christ himself. “ The sheep hear the voice of the good shepherd, and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out; and when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice; and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.” “ I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The good shepherd is listened to and followed, because he loves his sheep, and is even ready to lay down his life for them; but a stranger is not followed, because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep; and, therefore, when he seeth the wolf coming, he leaveth the sheep and fleeth. If we are spoken to for our own sakes, we are certainly more disposed to listen to the speaker; but, if we think that he is but speaking for some ends of his own, and does not greatly care about what he is saying, we are apt to turn away from him with suspicion or indifference.
Undoubtedly what has been here said, applies to Christian ministers in a particular manner; and offers the best explanation why
; so much of their preaching has remained without effect. Few,
Few, it is to be hoped, have been so wicked as to preach to others what they themselves believed to be a lie: but many thousands have spoken of that in which they had no lively or strong belief, and have spoken therefore tamely and unprofitably. They have